Whistleblower Ruedi Elmer vs. the Swiss ‘Justice’ System

   0   0 Blog, Tax Havens, Tax Havens

We’ve regularly covered the battles of whistleblower Rudolf Elmer against the Swiss “justice” system. As we’ve said before, and as has so often been the case with those brave enough to risk all to challenge injustice and corruption, the bank was the criminal, not Rudolf Elmer. He wrote a guest blog for us here on how Switzerland corrupted its courts to nail him. We’d like to bring you up to date on his heroic struggles.


Regular readers will recall that on August 23rd, 2016 Rudolf Elmer was acquitted of violating Swiss Bank Secrecy, because he didn’t actually have a Swiss employment contract with the Julius Baer Bank of Zurich while working for them based in the Cayman Islands – an important fact he’d been pointing out since 2005, as his prosecution proceeded through the Swiss courts, using Swiss secrecy laws.

After making the public anouncement of the verdict, the Head Judge Peter Marti said “now, I do have some personal remarks: You are not a whistleblower, you are an ordinary criminal”. These remarks were clearly beyond his proper role as a judge in the case, which did not concern whistleblowing, but bank secrecy. Elmer therefore boldly brought an action of defamation against the judge.

Unfortunately, for such a case to proceed in Switzerland requires approval of the cantonal government, in this case the Executive Committee of the State of Zurich, which turned the complaint down. This is unsurprising, since the majority of this Executive Committee were members of the Volkspartei (Swiss Peoples Party), and two of them served at the very same time in the Parliament as the Head Judge Peter Marti (1996 – 2000).

Undaunted, Elmer took the case to the Swiss Federal Court. Now this Court has also turned down the complaint. Its reasons, essentially, were that it was not shown that the state of Zurich had acted in bad faith or outside the scope of its powers.

At the same time, it’s interesting that the Swiss Federal Court decided not to charge any costs to Rudolf Elmer due to his complaint. This is highly unusual in Switzerland, and it perhaps shows that the Judges of the Swiss Federal Court didn’t really feel comfortable with the outcome.

Last year‘s acquittal of Elmer was appealed by the prosecution, and also by the defence on a separate point, so the final decision of the appeals court is still pending. And so, Elmer continues his battles in the Swiss justice system, challenging it to show whether it can uphold true rule of law and protect whistleblowers, or whether it opts to be an Alpine ‘pirate island,’ protecting its delinquent private banks.

Here’s the trailer of a film which was made about Rudolf Elmer’s struggles:

It’s worth pointing out again that whistleblowers are occupying a vital, and dangerous place, right on the tax and transparency frontline. We welcome any decent lawmaking to protect them.

The UN has made recommendations to enact legislation to create a charter on the rights of whistleblowers and adopt a “protected disclosure defence” to protect whistleblowers and witnesses. The United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Alfred de Zayas described whistleblowers as human rights defenders in a press conference fairly recently. A strong push for robust law making is absolutely essential, and long overdue.


Related Posts

Launch of international research collaboration, #AltAusterity

alt austerityToday is the launch of #AltAusterity, a new, international research collaboration of which Tax Justice Network is a partner.  The project aims to stimulate public debate on the subject of austerity though high quality research. It is a response to the lack of evidence which has underpinned the current policy agenda on austerity. The project […]


RB tax avoidance – company calls for public country by country reporting after Oxfam report reveals profit shifting

pictureOxfam has today released a report on tax dodging by RB, the company formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser and the maker of thousands of well known household products. The report looks at the 2012 restructuring of the company which saw it set up ‘hubs’ in the Netherlands, Dubai and Singapore, all well known corporate tax […]


Half measures mean Mauritius will continue to be a tax haven for the developing world

MauritiusThere was news this week that Mauritius has signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI). This is an initiative from the OECD to allow countries to take measures designed to stop tax avoidance by multinational companies and put them into their existing network of […]


G20: Pressure rising on tax haven USA

HamburgWhilst the eyes of the world focused on the isolation of the US from the ‘G19’ position on climate change, something remarkable played out elsewhere in the process. Following closely the common EU position that we highlighted a few days ago, the G20 communique devotes important space to tax justice. It’s so good we quote […]


Will the G20 ever end the global problem of tax avoidance and tax evasion?

HamburgAhead of the G20 Summit in Hamburg this week our own George Turner has published this op-ed in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung today. The article discusses why, despite sustained political engagement from world leaders, we are still some way from solving the problem of tax avoidance and tax evasion. Here’s an English translation of the article:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top